What do computers tell us about God?


Interesting thoughts here in this PP. What an interesting perspective on things.

Just thought I would share, found this on Digg, thought it was interesting.

The presentation becomes more interesting when you replace the god/universe/believers system with a government/nation/citizens system.

Do little computer programs get to join their programmer in heaven?

There has to be a silicon heaven… or else… where would all of the calculators go?

Should we ever create sufficiently complex artificial life (or if we believe that we will) it does lead to an interesting line of thought:

Those artificial beings will, presumably be able to advance to the point where they themselves can create their own artificial life. Which in turn may advance to the point where it can itself create artificial life. Now suppose we are sitting there looking at 3 generations of worlds created beneath ours. Can we honestly find a good reason at that point to believe that we’re at the top of the chain? We have four generations of worlds all believing that they are the top level of creation and at most one of them is correct about that. At that point it seems quite likely that we’re really just another child universe?

Of course it’s not an argument that ever leads to proof of anything, let alone to any idea about what form or shape “god” or beings of a higher-level of simulation might take (I tend to imagine them as bored lab assistants working their way through grad school). From a day-to-day perspective it has essentially no value and makes no change about how we might think about the world. You might even argue that such a possibility is impossible (i.e. that this universe isn’t complex enough to support multiple levels of sub-universes, as obviously a lot of complexity has to be lost at each level of simulation).

It’s still an interesting argument. :-)

I spend most of my waking time each day working in a virtual world. Sometimes I even turn on “God mode” so that I can navigate levels and reproduce bugs more easily. Other times I just hook up our remote debugging tool and hit the “kill all” button. Either way, the lives of my virtual world’s inhabitants are nasty, short, and empty of any meaning whatsoever. When they meet their creator, he greets them with the business end of a shotgun, and when they die, heaven is a state vector overwritten with 0xCDCDCDCD.

If there’s a God out there, I hope he’s nothing like me.


They tell us that God do not exist.

If he would exist, than he would be able to write computer AI for Dominions 3 powerful enough to beat his creator in 1 vs 1 duel. And if God would be beaten, that would meant that he is not all-powerfull, which means he could not be God in the first place. >:)

Those not absorbed into the Master Control Program are subject to immediate de-resolution.

  • What could we possibly offer our creator that it doesn’t already have?
  • Thankfulness

I dunno, I’d feel pretty awkward if I sensed that my Sims were somehow genuinely thankful towards me. Gee, thanks for making me feel guilty about putting all those stoves in the baby’s room…

Or what I used to do with my sims

Put in a pool, and then take out the stepladder.

It is an interesting topic, but it’s sophomoric as presented in that slide set.

It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to ask those questions, and the interesting part stops as soon as he starts citing actual religions. If there was some conclusion of consequence, the whole thing would be much more worthwhile, but I think it doesn’t go anywhere – the conclusions that can be drawn are I think obvious and uninteresting because they are untestable and unprovable.

One question might be: is the universe computable. If so, then some machine could implement it. There are a zillion mathematically equivalent ways of implementing various categories of machines – FSMs, cellular automata, Von Neumann CPUs, etc. etc. etc. You can argue that the universe itself is the way that the universe is computed.

If you don’t admit Penrose’s magic uncomputability of the human brain (for which he can only argue intuition), then you can say, sure, some “real” machine in a superior universe is actually implementing our universe as some kind of software or simulation. For that matter, even if the universe is uncomputable, some machine in another universe that isn’t bound by our laws might still be implementing our reality.

The problem with this whole line of argument is it doesn’t really get you anywhere.

So we could be implemented in someone’s machine in some other category of existence. So what. There is no conceivable way for us to break out of the machine by ourselves (in theory the external creator or implementor could choose to reimplement us in the superior world, hence perhaps some kind of afterlife or metempsychosis, but there’s no particular motivation for this idea besides wishful thinking).

Only if the machine creator wishes to communicate with us can we even get a hint about the details of some external “reality” – and even then, there is no particular reason for us to believe in those communications – they could be the work of someone in our own universe who is deceiving us, or it could be the superior universe guy is just yanking our chain and lying. Of course we might also be edited to believe any damn thing at all, but that isn’t very interesting either – though it does explain a lot about human culture.

So this is all great for fiction in which people are either communicated with the superior universe or in which they are reimplemented themselves in the superior universe, but it’s not very useful philosophically or practically.

It’s basically one of several Rudy Rucker novels, I think.

This PP exists to proselytize the Baha’i faith.

I ran into a cool blog post along these lines.

I wonder. I wonder. I wonder if the UNIX stack continued to grow, and programs continued to get built on other programs, and better and better, and so on and so forth, until we got to artificial life, or at least AI, I wonder: Well, would this intelligence be able to deduce the proc struct, what a process really was, in its world? As much as programs are stacked, there are no true sandboxes. The code environment would probably be able to look outside its local variable space to whatever it was running in, and that would be able to look out more, and repeat until you get to the shell, which would be able to see its environment variables, and then dig down into the process.

Except each step would be harder to do. You’d start using basic introspection of local objects in the high-level semantics of the AI, and then have to drop into something else to look outside. One day, eventually, you’d have to learn how to write C-code shapeships that would push outside the wall of the high-level environment into a text file on the filesystem, and then be compiled with a command thrown into the shell - in which the AI itself couldn’t live - and then executed, to report back, like a probe. Some walls would be too hard, and the whole world would have to be shaken, to provoke a buffer overflow, or some way of writing code into a process with greater privileges.


Why would sufficiently advanced artificial life we created not know of our existence?

Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument paper has some interesting takes on the probability of us being a computer simulation.

This is a seriously interesting and theological discussion that will become more and more important when we make things (be it computers or robots) that can act more and more like humans.

Presumably they would know if and only we told them about it. There’s no reason that if we can create a complex universe that we can’t make it seamless. For the purpose of the argument it’s safe to assume that we don’t tell them. All that really matters is that it is possible that there would be these 4 layers of reality, with us on the top, and the very real possibility that we are merely unaware that there are levels above us.

This becomes especially appreciable if you assume something approaching a technological singularity where our simulated world simulates billions of “years” at a time and so there are multiple layers of reality dwelling inside before we even see the command prompt (metaphorically speaking).

Of course that itself is merely a hypothetical future event. The argument only works if you think you have knowledge that this hypothetical event is in fact possible.

The thing is, if you were made to think on your own, would you believe in your creators. Or think of them as a higher being as yourself?

It’s ruled by Anubis and Thor!

Well, here’s where one of those calculators went…